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My Why: how gratitude became purpose and passion

Danelle with her sonIn honor of Better Hearing and Speech month we share the “My Why” story of Speech Language Pathologist Danelle Hartman who serves at Johanna Shores and Waverly Gardens.

Danelle writes:

“As the mother of a child with autism, I had so much to learn, and I was touched by the time, effort, and compassion that the speech-language pathologist (SLP) devoted to my son. She focused on him, as SLPs do, to understand what he needed and to help him learn and communicate. She celebrated all of his successes with us, no matter how small they seemed. This meant the world to me as a parent because I was unsure of what his future would look like. We were blessed to have many good SLPs and teachers throughout his school years. My son achieved academic success and is preparing to graduate high school and enter college this fall. 

As I watched him grow, I wanted to help other children in the same way, and I wanted to give parents hope. This began my journey of becoming a speech-language pathologist. I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Speech-Language Pathology and a Master’s of Science in Communication Disorders. I spent the first two years of my career working in the public schools. During that time, I was fortunate to work with children with autism and with their parents. I shared my knowledge and as personal experiences with parents to help them guide their children.

As much as I loved working with the pediatric population, I felt compelled to change my focus to work with older adults. I was always hearing through the grapevine that the geriatric population continues to grow, but the number of SLPs serving them is limited. This made me sad, and my internal push to work with adults only grew stronger when I lost my dad to cancer in February 2016.  

My dad chose to forego treatment and kept his illness a secret from his family until he could no longer hide it; he was a proud and brave man. Dad did not want to burden his children with caring for him. Despite not being there to support him through his courageous battle, I was there in the final moments of his life. Thinking back, I remember putting on my brave face and being very conscious of my education and training. Dad was no longer hungry; he simply wanted my company, comfort, and water. I could supply all those things, and I was able to help him comfortably drink water without choking. I will be eternally grateful for having that time with my dad. I was there when he took his final breath, and in that moment, I realized I could be there for others, too. 

After moving from North Dakota to Minnesota in the fall of 2016, I continued to serve older adults at different acute care and long term care settings. At last, I finally found my work home at Pres Homes. The residents are happy and their smiles are infectious. They all have a very important and unique story to tell and I love the connections I make with each person.

My son, my dad and the people I serve at PHS give me purpose and allow me to live out my passion; they are ‘My Why’."

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